Beware back-to-school asthma spike

asthma: boy uses puffer

The National Asthma Council Australia is asking pharmacists to help young asthma patients have a better start to the school year

Parents and carers need to be prepared so they and their kids with asthma are confident about managing their asthma and allergies before the new school year begins, the Council says.

The “back to school” period is associated with a well-documented annual increase in children’s asthma flare-ups during February.

This is due to factors such as stress, shared viruses, a change of environment or allergens and less strict asthma management over the holidays.

Studies in Australia and the UK have shown asthma hospitalisations surge during the first month of the school year, with cases in Australia tripling in children aged five to 14 years and doubling in pre-schoolers.

While increased risks have also been recorded at the start of subsequent school terms, the February spike is by far the most significant.

National Asthma Council Advisory Group member and pharmacist, Peter Holder says that one in 10 Australian children have asthma and that research shows many of them have had an asthma attack at school.

“The good news is that by taking a few simple steps parents can keep children as healthy as possible and reduce the chances of this happening,” he says.

“Now is the time to ask parents whether their child has an up to date asthma plan, whether their inhalers are in date and whether their child has a spacer and knows how to use it correctly.”

Mr Holder encouraged pharmacists to set up an area in-store for conducting a back to school parents’ and children’s inhaler refresher to help perfect their technique.

“Pharmacists can also help parents think about what they need to tell teachers or carers to ensure they know about their child’s triggers and how their child should be using their inhaler. Taking these preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to helping keep children with asthma out of hospital,” he says.

“No child with asthma should have to miss out on participating in sports or leading an active life.”

The National Asthma Council Australia has issued the following clinical tips, which support best practice asthma care, to help parents of children with asthma prepare for the new school year:

  • When children with asthma present for any reason, ask about their asthma and whether they are ready for asthma when at school.
  • Make sure each child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan and the child and/or parents understand how to follow it.
  • Remind parents to get their child back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day, if prescribed;
  • Recommend a full asthma check-up with a doctor before the school year starts, or at least beforeactivities like sports or other physical activities start, to ensure all is as well as it can be.
  • Take the opportunity to check that the child and/or parents are using inhalers correctly.

Asthma action plan templates and demonstration videos on inhaler techniques can be accessed at

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